Joy-Ann Reid

Joy-Ann Reid
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December 08
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Journalist and talk radio personality in South Florida. Also blogging daily at reidreport.com

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DECEMBER 14, 2009 11:04PM

The big healthcare sell-out

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Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama.

Tonight, a rumpled looking (well to be fair, he's always rumpled looking) Sherrod Brown (D-RI) was sent out in front of the cameras to Keith Olbermann's show to try and sell "Countdown's" liberal audience on how all of their hard work has produced a terrific healthcare bill, which will remain terrific even without a public insurance option to compete with the private ensurers who will now have 30 million Americans commanded by buy their products, and now, without a Medicare buy-in for those over 55. Brown didn't look like he quite believed what he was saying. Talking Points Memo, meanwhile, reports that perfunctory White House denials notwithstanding, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel did indeed press Harry Reid to cut a healthcare deal with Joe Lieberman, and to give him whatever he wants:

An aide briefed on discussions with the White House says that there would be no story if Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel hadn't interceded. The aide confirmed an account, reported by Huffington Post, that Emanuel visited Reid personally, telling him to cut a deal with Lieberman.
Then the aide provided more detail. Emanuel didn't just leave it to Reid to find a solution. Emanuel specifically suggested Reid give Lieberman the concessions he seeks on issues like the Medicare buy-in and triggers. "It was all about 'do what you've got to do to get it done. Drop whatever you've got to drop to get it done," the aide said. All of Emanuel's prescriptions, the source said, were aimed at appeasing Lieberman--not twisting his arm. This is the second Senate aide to provide nearly identical accounts of the White House's intervention. It seems very much as if officials there desperately want the Senate to pass a bill, at all costs.
Lieberman, who as recently as September, proposed the very Medicare /Medicaid buy-in he now opposes, has made it clear he is prepared to kill healthcare reform, no matter what is offered to him, unless of course, what is offered is the blue plate special served by his friends in the insurance industry. Next, I suppose Harry Reid will have to strip out the pre-existing conditions reforms and the subsidies, plus the stuff about not dropping people when they're sick. Then, perhaps, Lieberman will think about not filibustering it. The Huffpo confirms, via the stammering of Democratic Senators, that the "reform" has been stripped out of healthcare reform. And no Senator better captures how out of touch these guys are than Max Baucus:
Baucus was upbeat about the bill. "This is exciting. I hope you feel as excited as I do. This is a big deal. I mean, really, we all tend to focus on process and we tend to focus on individual provisions, which is really very important," he said. "But it's just huge for our country. This is going to be the biggest legislative effort that I've ever been involved in. And it's going to mean more to more people, I think, than anything I've been involved in."

Yep. We're sunk.

Howard Fineman on "Hardball" tonight stated that from what he can determine, Lieberman is acting out of revenge, not against the White House, but against liberal Democrats, especially those in the "netroots," who opposed him and ran him out of the primary in Connecticut. Now, he's determined to kill anything progressives are for. And so, per TPM:

... as the Senate moves toward a vote on health care reform next week, it's becoming apparent that even the most pro-reform senators are resigning themselves to a less-than-ideal bill and that the White House is keeping the pressure on to get a bill passed even if that means acceding to the demands of Joe Lieberman.

I wonder if the White House understands what they've done here? Not to answer my own question, but I get the sense that they don't really understand how serious -- and by serious, I mean seriously bad -- the president's and Congress' situation is. (Otherwise, President Obama would not have given himself that B+, which in Harvard terms, is what you might call "grading on a curve...")

Clearly, the White House believes that just passing any healthcare bill will cause Democrats to rally round, and they must believe that average Americans will be as excited as Baucus is about "healthcare reform" that basically consists of forcing every American to purchase private insurance, under penalty of law. What, precisely, is there to sell in that? What is there to love? And what makes Rahm Emanuel, or White House political director Patrick Gaspard, for that matter, think that any rational person will laud this so-called "reform," or accept that the White House and Reid, who must be the weakest Senate majority leader in history, allowed a single Senator -- who isn't even a Democrat -- to roll the entire party, and the president?

If Reid's "compromise" manages to limp out of the Senate, assuming Lieberman doesn't call for more accommodation that the White House then orders Reid to hand over, sometime this month, a healthcare bill will emerge from conference, probably weak, probably with precious little to reign in either costs or the practices of the insurance giants (who will join the banks in having punked the American people through their elected representatives.) President Obama will whip out a special pen and sign that bill in a Rose Garden ceremony, surrounded by smiling Congresspeople, including, probably, Joe Lieberman. And then, during his State of the Union address, Obama will laud the bill as the achievement of a lifetime, and something that eluded six previous presidents.

I'm sure the White House team is counting on the gratitude of people who are not dropped from their policies to carry the day, and carry the party into November 2010. I'm sure the president and those compromising Senators believe (or hope) that those receiving federal subsidies will just be grateful to have insurance, and will credit Democrats for having delivered. They've obviously calculated that with time, the anger of liberal Democrats (whom they believe have made too much of the whole "public option" thing anyway) will subside, and the sheer magnitude of the achievement will boost the president's approval ratings. After all, where are liberals going to turn? Sarah Palin?

The White House is free to believe that, and the political office free to advise it. But believing it doesn't make it so. At the end of this process, my fear is that the president and his friends in the Senate will have permanently burned a bridge with the core of the people who got him elected -- the most passionate part of the party -- the ones who volunteer, and donate, and work, to make elections happen. And many will not come back. And since there are no Republicans for Mr. Obama to join with, because they do not want to join with him, what then? Will his coalition consist of Harry Reid and Joe Lieberman?

Well, good luck with that, Mr. President. And good luck to the vulnerable Democrats, including Reid, but extended to any of those who can be called a "moderate," next year. The other side has passion to work with, in the form of the "Tea Party" movement. Democrats will be working from a demoralized base that's angry too -- but angry at them. I'd guess that Harry Reid, Chris Dodd and Blanche Lincoln in particular, are in greater electoral trouble tonight than they were this morning. And the Democrats' hold on the Senate majority just got a whole lot shakier (which could, in the end, be what Joe Lieberman wants.)

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I find it despicable that the Democrats have caved in to Joe Lieberman, the Republicans, and most of all the health insurance lobby. Harry Reid is a completely inept and spineless Senate leader.
President Obama should be ashamed of himself with regard to this healthcare "reform" bill.
This is such bullshit. (Not your post, but rather, the situation you're posting about.)

This is not reform. This is nothing. I am disgusted.
A very good post about a very sad story. Obama has supposedly sacrificed so much else – the rule of law, respect for international treaties, accountability and openness – for this great "domestic" agenda. Now that turns out to be a sham as well. Did Obama lose all his principles, when coming into power, with record speed? Or were these principles phony in the first place?
The current plan is no worse than it was a month ago. It was always lousy, we're just now seeing that the emperor has no clothes.

All of this mayhem and foolishness has been over a plan that never once addressed the issues with the current "system" in the US. It did not control costs which are bankrupting the US and our industries. It did not sever the connection between employment and insurance which shackles both individuals and business. It merely was about how we were going to offer some insurance to the percentage of people not already covered. And only about 2/3rds of them at that.

At best the public option was going to be available only to 8% of the population, not enough to change anything for the rest of us. And months ago the medicare+5% version of the public option, (itself a compromise with the +5% instead of standard medicare rates) was converted to the "equal playing field" option that was forbidden from using the power of government negotiation, but taking on its limitations and therefore probably doomed to be more expensive than the private market.

Once again Obama started his bidding with a complete capitulation and then got nickel and dimed out of even that. What we're getting now is a less generous version of Romneycare.
Yeah, passing a health care bill is sure to be the Democrats downfall to the do nothing obstructionist Republicans next year.

BTW I can't say I have a problem with dropping the Medicare 55 age limit. If that is what it takes then go for it, the thing was a throw away amendment anyhow.
When will the progressives learn that this was never about health care.This is about power.WHY WOULD YOU TRUST THE GOVERNMENT TO RUN YOUR HEALTH CARE.The polls are against Obama care.Why?We do not trust the government to do anything right.They are 12 trillion and counting in debt.The government sets up panels to run health care.Say some one like BUSH gets in office and it his job to set the panels up.Would you like that?I use Bush cuz i know you progressives hate him.Any new administration gets to put the people on the panels.The slippery slope is dangerous.Do not blame the republicans. Blame the American people who do not want this.I promise you will thank them later.
Is this really a surprise?:

"a healthcare bill will emerge from conference, probably weak, probably with precious little to reign in either costs or the practices of the insurance giants (who will join the banks in having punked the American people through their elected representatives.)"

What does it take for economically struggling US citizens (regardless of their political affiliation) to realize that big government career politicians (regardless of their political affiliation) and mega corporations are bed fellows and all about money and power? Other than votes and programming us, they don't give a rat's ass...we are divided and conquered as we bicker over petty issues and superficial differences...

"The emperor's got brand new clothes
And everybody but him knows, he's naked
But you don't say a word

The emperor's got brand new jewels
Wake up soon, you silly fools, he's naked
But you don't say a word

The rich, they get richer, the poor, they get poorer
While liberty stands naked screaming in horror
The emperor raped her but we just ignore her
The rich, they get richer, the poor, they get poorer"
- Naked by Everlast

Somebody better step up soon and be the voice who notices and speaks...someone like you. Thanks for your articulate and well reasoned perspective on this issue.
I agree with Leonde. It looks like whatever bill that passes will be one that just makes the health insurance companies richer.

I would hope that maybe there would be at least one democrat in the Senate who would stand up against this fraud.
Even if they call it The Great And Wise And Wonderful Joe Lieberman Honorary Healthcare Reform Bill, he'll still do his best to block it. If people have to die to satisfy his wounded ego, so be it. The party leadership must be really glad they helped him get reelected.
You bet there's an ego problem, but it's Obama's not Lieberman's. Obama cannot tolerate the prospect of following in Hillary Clinton's footsteps. That's why he's willing to cave indefinitely just to get SOMETHING passed.

The fact that "his" bill will make weaklings like Reid and Pelosi look like total losers is of no moment to Obama. That's what they are, after all, and they're both going nowhere come the next election except home.
Thanks for all the great comments on a pretty depressing post, if I do say so myself ... while we're finding fault, I think we also have to blame the culture of the Senate, of which Obama is a product, and which values comity and compromise over principle, and where a single lawmaker holds inordinate power because of the arcane parliamentary rules. You also have to fault Harry Reid for not being tougher, including with the White House.

(I should probably note that I'm an Obama supporter, and worked to help him win Florida, so this isn't about bashing the president, whom I still want to see succeed. Just grim reality.)
I just keep thinking of how much better things would be if there were just one more real Democratic senator, so the rest could tell Joe Leiberman to go fuck himself. Sigh.
It's a total sell-out. This will be harmful, not helpful, to those who can't afford insurance. As one who has just started the process of divorce (and will have no insurance once I lose my husband's coverage) this scares the hell out of me. I have no idea how I'll manage to afford private insurance.
Boy, is THAT a creepy picture...
Obama and his Chicago Mafia are not stupid. Whatever passes doesn't kick in for 3 years. Think about that.

Also, they know that if they get something it will never go away.

It will grow and grow like a weed and we will all pay dearly in the end.
Wonderful lessons here. We are learning who owns the United States of America.
A well written article.

"At the end of this process, my fear is that the president and his friends in the Senate will have permanently burned a bridge with the core of the people who got him elected -- the most passionate part of the party -- the ones who volunteer, and donate, and work, to make elections happen. And many will not come back. And since there are no Republicans for Mr. Obama to join with, because they do not want to join with him, what then? Will his coalition consist of Harry Reid and Joe Lieberman?"

This bears repeating. The only people celebrating this bill are in the senate, and they seem to be working hard to convince "we the people" to celebrate as well...for the sake of those 30 million uninsured people who have been pulled back from the brink of death.

The basic truth here is that nobody in this rich country -- a country that can save banks from death with hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money-- should face death for want of an insurance card. Why can we rush to save GM and not Geraldine Maxwell?
Until Americans see healthcare as a moral issue like drinking water and sewer treatment and safe roads for all we will allow the haves to have healthcare and the have nots to go without. This is a moral issue. As long as we spend half our budget on warfare of course we can not afford healthcare.